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The Coming into Being of Worlds

Chapter Four



Sutra:

Perhaps they naturally gain Right Enlightenment
And guide a few beings to dwell in the Way.
Or perhaps in the space of a single thought,
They enlighten confused beings beyond number.  

Perhaps magical clouds issue from their pores,
Revealing limitless, boundless Buddhas.
Everyone in the worlds sees these Buddhas
Saving beings with various skillful means.  

Perhaps the sound of their voices pervades everywhere
As they speak Dharma to delight the hearts of beings.
For inconceivable numbers of great eons
They temper and subdue limitless seas of beings.  

Perhaps in countless splendid lands
Seated majestically in pure assemblies
Are Buddhas like clouds hovering above,
Pervading every sea of lands in the ten directions.  

With inconceivable skills-in-means, the Buddhas
Manifest before beings according to their thoughts.
Pervasively dwelling in diverse adorned ksetras,
They encompass all lands everywhere.  

Commentary:

Perhaps when Buddhas appear in the worlds, they naturally gain Right Enlightenment / And guide a few beings to dwell in the Way. They enable only a few beings to attain the Way. Orperhaps in the space of a single thought / They teach and transform and enlighten confused beings beyond number.  

Perhaps when Buddhas appear in the worlds, great numbers of jeweled , magical clouds issue from their pores, / Revealing limitless, boundless Buddhas. / Everyone in the worlds sees these Buddhas. All the beings in the ten directions can see the Buddhas that manifest in these clouds, saving beings with various skillful means, usingall sorts of expedient means to teach and transform, and to save the multitude of beings.  

Perhaps the sound of their voices pervades everywhere / As they speak Dharma to delight the hearts of beings. When a Buddha appears, the sounds of his Dharma flow and circulate throughout the Dharma Realm. Whatever makes a particular being happy, that is the dharma door that the Buddhas explain for him. For the duration of inconceivable numbers of great eons, / They temper and subdue limitless seas of beings. The beings they teach and transform are so numerous they are like a sea. 

Perhaps in countless splendid lands are Buddhas seated majestically in pure assemblies. In each one of these uncountable adorned lands, there is a Buddha seated majestically beneath a bodhi tree, where he realizes the Way and turns the great Dharma wheel. There are Buddhas like clouds hovering above, / Pervading every sea of lands in the ten directions. They appear just like a bank of clouds arrayed in the sky, filling up all the lands. 

With inconceivable skills-in-means, beyond the mind’s understanding, the Buddhas / Manifest before beings according to their thoughts and what their hearts delight in. Pervasively dwelling in diverse adorned ksetras, / They encompass all lands everywhere. Buddhas dwell everywhere in the multitude of adorned lands throughout space and the Dharma Realm.

II.E.2.h. The different durations of the seas of worlds

Sutra:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further told the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha, you should know that the durations of existence of seas of worlds are as numerous as the motes of dust in the seas of worlds. That is to say, they may exist for asankhyeya eons; they may exist for limitless eons; they may exist for boundless eons; they may exist for unequaled eons; they may exist for innumerable eons; they may exist for inexpressible eons ; they may exist for inconceivable eons; they may exist for unreckonable eons; they may exist for ineffable eons; they may exist for ineffably ineffable eons. The different durations of existence are as numerous as the motes of dust in seas of worlds.”  

Commentary:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of Great Conduct, further told all those in the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha, you should know that the durations of existence of the seas of worlds, this oceanic expanse, are as numerous as motes of dust in the seas of worlds. This passage describes the different lengths of time that a world may dwell, before it deteriorates and vanishes. That is to say, they may exist for asankhyeya eons.

The words used to describe the durations of these eons are actually translations or transliterations of Sanskrit terms for incredibly large numbers. Asankhyeya could be translated as “uncountable.” There is “the number of grains of sand in the Ganges River,” which is not as large as “the number of dust motes.” Nayuta, “inconceivable,” and “limitless” are also names of huge numbers. They may exist for limitless eons; they may exist for boundless eons; they may exist for unequaled eons before they deteriorate and disperse. They may exist for innumerable eons. You can’t count how many there are. They may exist for inexpressible eons. You cannot even state how long these worlds endure before they fall apart and return to emptiness.

They may exist for inconceivable eons. You cannot even imagine such a large number of eons, such a long period of time. They may exist for unreckonable eons. There is no way to determine how long this span of time is; it cannot be measured. They may exist for ineffable eons ; they may exist for ineffably ineffable eons, eons so inexpressibly many that there is no way to describe them. The different durations of existence are as numerous as the motes of dust in seas of worlds.”

Sutra:

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, contemplated the ten directions, and spoke verses.  

The seas of worlds with their various different eons
Are adorned by vast, expansive expedient means.
The lands of the ten directions are completely seen,
Their numbers and differentiations clearly known.  

I behold the seas of worlds of the ten directions
Through measureless eons equal to the number of beings.
They may be long or short or boundless.
I now proclaim them with the Buddhas’ voice.  

I gaze upon the oceans of lands of the ten directions:
Some abide for eons as numerous as dust motes in lands.
Some dwell for one eon, others for countless eons.
Because of different vows, they are not the same.  

They may be completely pure or completely defiled,
Or perhaps a mixture of purity and defilement.
Established by oceanic vows, each and every one different,
They dwell in the thoughts of beings’ minds.  

Past cultivation for eon s as numerous as dust motes in ksetras
Results in magnificent, pure seas of worlds.
The states of all Buddhas, fully adorned,
Endure perpetually for vast and boundless eons.

Commentary:

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, contemplated all beings in the ten directions, and spoke verses.

The seas of worlds with their various different eons / Are adorned by vast, expansive expedient means. Every sea of worlds dwells for a different duration of time, as a result of the vast expedient means of all Buddhas. The lands of the ten directions are completely seen. They are all visible simultaneously, and their numbers and differentiations are clearly known. All the seas of worlds have their different spans of existence, which may be long or short. The number of eons they exist varies, but all of these differences are clearly apparent. 

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says: I behold the seas of worlds of the ten directions / Through measureless eons equal to the number of beings. Some worlds last for measureless eons. They may be long or short or boundless. Long and short time-spans are not beyond a single thought. A single thought can extend in to limitless eons; limitless eons can also become one thought. One can make the time as long or short as one wishes. I now proclaim them with the Buddhas’ voice. Although the number of seas of worlds is so great, the sound of the Buddha speaking Dharma can be heard in every world. 

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva continues: I gaze upon the oceans of lands, the seas of Buddhalands of the ten directions: / Some abide for eon s as numerous as dust motes in lands. / Some dwell for one eon, others for countless eons. Because of the different vows of the Buddhas, of the Bodhisattvas, and of beings, they are not the same.  

They may be completely pure and unalloyed or completely defiled, / Or perhaps a mixture of purity and defilement. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “When the mind is pure, the Buddhaland is pure.” Upon hearing those words, Shariputra gave rise to a doubt: “If the Buddhaland is pure when the Bodhisattva’s mind is pure, is it the case that when Shakyamuni Buddha was practicing the Bodhisattva path, his mind was im pure? Otherwise, why is it that after he attained Buddhahood, the Saha world is still im pure? Why is it still the defiled, evil world of the five turbidities?”

Shakyamuni Buddha knew Shariputra was having this false thought, and he told the assembly, “Basically my world is as pure as can be, but if none of you can see that, who’s to blame?” Then he pressed the ground with his toe, and immediately the entire trichiliocosm became adorned with the myriad jewels. When everyone in the assembly saw this, they sighed in wonder. At the same time they could see themselves seated upon great, jeweled lotuses. Defiled beings cannot see purity, and pure beings cannot see defilement. Thus purity and defilement depend on beings’ states of mind.  

Established by oceanic vows, each and every one different, / They dwell in the thoughts of beings’ minds. The seas of worlds established by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are all different. Yet all these differences of long and short, many and few, are brought about by beings’ thoughts. 

Past cultivation for eons as numerous as dust motes in ksetras, / R esults magnificent, pure seas of worlds. Having cultivated for innumerable eons , the Buddhas brought to realization worlds of great purity. Within these pure seas of worlds, the states of all Buddhas, fully adorned, / Endure perpetually for vast and boundless eons.

We are now in the Dharma-ending Age. Good advisors are hard to find. Few are propagating the Buddhaharma. We who study the Buddhadharma everyday may be considered foolish by the smart people in the world, who cannot find the patience to study the Buddhadharma in this way. And so it’s no wonder that sometimes people get tired of studying and start having false thoughts. They think, “There’s no point in working so hard.”

The people who are fasting also have such false thoughts. “We’re really dumb. What’s the use of not eating? What’s wrong with eating and drinking? Isn’t it stupid not to drink water?” Usually juice doesn’t taste that good, but when you haven’t eaten anything for five or six days, plain water tastes even sweeter than juice. People never tire of eating. They eat day after day and never consider it troublesome. Nor do they mind the trouble of going to the toilet to let the resulting waste pass out of their body.

But when it comes to investigating the Buddhadharma, they find it difficult. Things are always difficult in the beginning. Buddhism has only recently come to the West, so it’s definitely going to be a little hard at first. It is through enduring difficulty that people can achieve great ness . That’s why I often say that I have come to this country to create living Buddhas, living Bodhisattvas, and living Patriarchs. Whoever wishes to be a Bodhisattva or Patriarch will definitely succeed. And if you want to be a Buddha, you are even more assured of success. All you have to do is rely on the Buddhadharma to cultivate, and you can become a Buddha.

Sutra:

Some are named Light of Myriad Jewels;
Others, Equal Sound Flaming Eye Treasury;
And yet others, Immaculate Light or Worthy Eon.
This pure kalpa gathers them in, one and all.  

A single Buddha may appear in some pure kalpas;
Or boundless Buddhas may appear in a singlekalpa.
With infinite expedients and m agnificent vows,
They enter into different types of kalpas.

Commentary:

Some worlds’ kalpas are named Light of Myriad Jewels Kalpa, / Others named Equal Sound Flaming Eye Treasury Kalpa. And yet others, Immaculate Light Kalpa or Worthy Kalpa. We are now in the Worthy Kalpa. A thousand Buddhas will appear during this kalpa. This pure kalpa gathers them in, one and all.  

A single Buddha may appear in some pure kalpas; / Or in some worlds, boundless Buddhas may appear in a single kalpa. / With infinite expedients and magnificent vows, / They enter into different types of kalpas. All these seas of worlds and their kalpas are brought about by the great vows of all Buddhas.

Sutra:

Perhaps measureless kalpas enter one kalpa;
Perhaps one kalpa enters many kalpas.
The different entrances into all seas of kalpas
Appear distinctly in the ten directions ’ lands .  

Perhaps the adornments of all kalpas
Are completely visible in a single kalpa.
Perhaps adornments from a single kalpa
Universally appear in boundless kalpas.  

F rom a single thought and to an entire kalpa
All are produced from the thoughts of beings.
The boundless kalpas of all seas of ksetras
Are completely purified by a single expedient.  

Commentary:

Perhaps measureless kalpas enter one kalpa; an interval of limitless kalpas may turn into a single kalpa, or it may even be contracted to fit within the space of a single thought. Perhaps one kalpa enters many kalpas. A single kalpa appears to span an interval covering many kalpas. A single thought can be extended to limitless kalpas. These states are possible because there are no fixed dharmas. Nothing is absolutely fixed. The different entrances into all seas of kalpas / Appear distinctly in the ten directions’ lands. The differentiations in the seas of kalpas appear very clearly in the lands of the ten directions.

The previous verse described the durations of kalpas, and the next one discusses their adornments. Worlds may be adorned by gold, by silver, or by some other of the seven precious things. Perhaps the states of adornments of all kalpas / Are completely visible in a single kalpa. / Perhaps adornments from a single kalpa / Universally appear in boundless kalpas. Just as a single kalpa is adorned, limitless kalpas may similarly be adorned. It is not fixed. 

From a single thought to an entire kalpa— / All are produced by the thoughts of beings. How are kalpas formed? They are born from a single thought of beings. One thought can extend to limitless kalpas, and limitless kalpas can be reduced to one thought. A single thought can gradually turn into a great kalpa. Beings’ false thinking produces these false and unfixed states. The boundless kalpas of all seas of ksetras / Are completely purified by a single expedient. Buddhas use expedient dharma doors to purify limitless kalpas.

The kalpas of formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness that a world goes through are caused by beings’ false thoughts. Not only these kalpas, everything that exists is brought into being by beings’ false thinking. Beings’ false thoughts are so numerous that they cause the world to come into being. The earth, the moon, and the sun are all creations of false thinking. “I don’t believe that,” someone may say. “According to science there are certain conditions that bring these phenomena about. They are certainly not just a product of false thinking.” I won’t insist on my point. But let’s consider the chicken and the egg.

An egg is not a chicken to begin with. But if you place fifteen or twenty eggs together, the mother hen will have a false thought. She thinks, “If I incubate these eggs, I’ll have a bunch of little chicks.” That’s the way hens are. If there’s only one egg, she won’t incubate it. But if there are many eggs, the hen will stop laying eggs and will sit on the eggs in order to bring more chicks into the world. She sits on her eggs day after day. By instinct she uses her beak to turn every egg over several dozen times a day—turning them every hour or so. Why? Because if she didn’t turn the egg, the embryo would stick to the eggshell and the chick wouldn’t be able to separate from the eggshell when it hatched.

Having a pointed beak, you would think the hen might easily break the egg when turning it. But she’s pretty scientific about it. She puts her beak under the egg and turns it from below, rather than touching it from the top. She turns every egg like that, and after twenty-one or twenty-two days, the chicks hatch. How? As a result of the mother hen’s false thinking about them.

And so the Shurangama Sutra says, “Womb-born beings are born because of emotion. Egg-born beings are born because of thought. Moisture-born beings come in response to union. Transformationally-born beings arise from separation.” The principle is very clear. From observing how a mother hen hatches her chicks, we can see that the chicken’s world is created from false thinking. Likewise, the worlds of horses, cows, dogs, people, and all other beings are also creations of false thinking.

When the mother hen is hatching her chicks, at that point she is single-mindedly concentrated. She becomes totally concentrated on hatching chicks. When the chicks are ready, the mother hen’s concentration subsides and she uses her beak to help them break out of the shell. The chicks were just egg yolk in the beginning, but by the time they hatch, they have fully developed inner organs. From the example of chickens, we can know that other animals are the same way: brought into being by false thinking.

The mother hen’s initial false thought comes from ignorance. Ignorance leads to activity—the activity of sitting on eggs. Activity brings into being consciousness, which is the chicken embryo. Consciousness leads to name and form--not a human form, but that of a chicken fetus. Name and form lead to the six entrances (senses)—the chicken fetus develops the faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind).

Once replete with the six senses, the baby chick starts to grow feathers, and with that it experiences contact and then feeling. It develops a craving for pleasant feelings, and it wants to grasp those pleasant things for itself. With that there is existence, which leads to birth. And birth is followed by old age and death.

The stage of the mother hen and the rooster is analogous to the kalpa of formation. The birth and life span of the chicken are the kalpa of dwelling. The death of the chicken by slaughter or sickness is the kalpa of decay. When the chicken is no longer around, that is the kalpa of emptiness.

Although the body goes through formation, dwelling, decay, and emptiness, the false thinking continues without cease. After a chick is born, it has false thoughts of eating: “Where can I find some food?” When it is full, it thinks, “Where can I find a nice place to take a nap?” Those are false thoughts of sleeping. Even such a tiny creature understands these things! And after it wakes up, it’s hungry and has to look for food again.

That’s the work a chicken does all day. Chickens are also greedy. If a chicken finds some food and other chickens come near, it fights them off. It wants to chase them away, but they are determined to take a share of the food. The chickens peck and flap their wings at each other, fighting over food. If chickens are that way, no wonder people are always competing to steal profits from each other. Why? If they have the most profit, they can use it buy food and whatever else they need!

Even mosquitoes fight. When they buzz, they are actually chasing the other mosquitoes away. They also fight over food. Even such tiny insects go to war. If such tiny creatures have so much greed, it’s no wonder that in the human realm, monks are greedy and possessive about their donors. They only fear their donors will be snatched away by other monks. How stupid! That’s why the world has gone bad. People are all selfish and want to benefit themselves . They don’t want to help others. They only think about themselves, “Me this, and me that.” They mess up the whole world on account of “me and mine.”

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